Next Wednesday, author Anne Lamott is doing a reading at the Free Library here in the city, and I waited too long to get tickets so now it’s sold out. You might remember I read “Bird by Bird” a while ago when I first started the journey of writing a book. Aside from being the paper equivalent of a warm hug, it was chock full of wisdom and laughter from a veteran of the draining war writing can sometimes be. But one anecdote in particular really stood out to me, in a chapter near the end about writing in the spirit of giving, giving more than you thought possible. That you have to approach your writing selflessly but consistently, and give give give.
“An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.
The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister; until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, ‘How soon until I start to die?’”
I don’t think writing is perhaps as noble as saving a sibling’s life. Though I defy you to read that and not well up even slightly. If you haven’t read “Bird by Bird,” this should change your mind.